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The State Of The London Stage: May 2021

Get Ready for Lift-off

The State Of The London Stage: May 2021 The fabled date is getting nearer! For months, May 17 has loomed large in the calendar of London theatreland as the signal for playhouses to reopen their doors after a five-month lockdown - a period of closure that has lasted far longer in New York for the simple reason that London theaters did at least flicker partially back to life last autumn. Not that every marquee is going to be illuminated at once: the big shows, as expected, are staggering their re-emergence, no doubt mindful of social distancing protocols set against the economic demands of running a large-scale production at anything resembling a profit.

What's gratifying, given some ongoing unease, are the numbers of smaller venues that are reopening when you might imagine they would be the first to be scared off by the dictates of the times. The tiny but two-tiered Orange Tree in Richmond, for instance, is offering a Shaw double-bill while central London's Jermyn Street Theatre (normal seating capacity, 70, to be reduced to 20 or 25) is mounting a Footsteps Festival promising 43 shows over three months: no shortage of ambition there. (We'll be hosting a guest blog in due course by that theatre's artistic director, Tom Littler). In the meantime, read on for a rundown on what lies ahead as well as an ever-expanding list of what you can see around town and when.

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Oscar Oscar!

Has anyone else noticed the direct line that can be traced between the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Oscars? Not only did the composer's Sunset Boulevard co-author and co-lyricist (with Don Black) Christopher Hampton win a second Oscar late last month for co-adapting (with Florian Zeller) the London and Broadway play The Father for the screen, but the book writer of Cinderella, Emerald Fennell, was among the most deserving winners of the night. The first time film writer-director (and sometime-actress) nabbed the original screenplay Oscar for Promising Young Woman, which itself promises good things ahead for the summer's big musical opening premiere.

Let's not forget that both Black and an earlier Lloyd Webber collaborator, Tim Rice, have Oscars of their own as, of course, does the composer himself, back in 1997 for his original song "You Must Love Me" for Evita: do these kudos-bearers ever gather to compare trophies, one wonders? Now there's a photo op waiting to happen.

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Window Shopping

West London's bustling Portobello Road remains a magnet for tourists keen to figure out just where it was that Hugh Grant lived during the heady days of the film Notting Hill. (Alas, the vaunted blue door from the movie has long since changed colour to a deliberately anonymous black.) For four days this month (May 7, 8, 14, 15) the area will be given over to a free festival across art forms under the banner title Outside In that has been curated by that area's ever-enterprising Coronet Theatre, home to the quirkiest and coolest theatre bar in town.

The idea is to reconnect people with live performance that will fill empty shops with an eclectic array of activity: the cavalcade of prospects includes dance, puppetry and video, alongside theatre and music. This outdoor programme follows on from the same venue's Inside Out series of work online, which has fielded over 620,000 views during the pandemic; Outside In will be available digitally as well, but why not take a spring stroll and see what some of the capital's arts graduates have been up to while so many of us have been hunkering down.

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Beam Me Up, Greg

The State Of The London Stage: May 2021
Greg Germann

Now here's a show with a difference: a production of the Lucinda Coxon play Herding Cats that is due to combine in-person and livestream theatre. The production, running at Soho Theatre 19-22 May, will be directed by Anthony Banks and boasts the novelty value of conjoining performers Jassa Ahluwalia and Sophie Melville with American actor Greg Germann (pictured right), who will be seen live each performance from Los Angeles, which is eight hours behind London. The mind boggles as to what could happen if this idea gains traction: shows combining New York and London talent, perhaps, with each performing from their home cities but in one designated venue? I remain greatly intrigued to see how this all pans out. In the meantime, let's just hope Germann doesn't oversleep.

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What to See and When

Ok, you've got your vaccine/s and are craving live performance again, so what can you see during the summer and when? And what is on hold or - dare one say it - gone for good? Check out our listings below, to be amended and updated every month to keep pace with events.

THE FAMILIAR

*The Mousetrap, from 17 May, this time with a starry cast when, for decades, the play itself has been the star

*Death Drop, from 19 May, not to be confused with the long-running Ira Levin-scripted Broadway mainstay, Deathtrap, of a bygone vintage: the Tuck Island team have returned

*Love Letters, from 19 May: everyone's favourite two-hander is back, socially distanced desks intact

*Everybody's Talking About Jamie, from 20 May: the sleeper hit musical is back even as the film version gets ready itself to land in due course

*Les Miserables the Staged Concert, from 20 May: stars aplenty keep this 1985 long-runner atop the British musical behemoth tree

*Magic Mike Live, from 21 May: the boys are back (and the prosecco, too!)

*Six the Musical, from 21 May: the little show that could keeps on chugging

*Mamma Mia! from 25 August: what better time for an ABBA-themed party than in the clearing from a pandemic?

*The Play That Goes Wrong, from 18 June: even our upside-down times can't dent enthusiasm for this crazy-pants play

*Hairspray, from June 21: Michael Ball back in first of his Olivier-winning roles

*Heathers, from 21 June: return visit to its erstwhile West End home for adaptation of 1989 film

*Tina the Musical, from 24 June: Anna Mae Bullock herself may be opting to step out of the spotlight but the show honouring her life and art continues

*Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, from 1 July: the best Joseph in my experience, Jac Yarrow, returns to the stage that made him a star

*The Prince of Egypt, from 1 July: a musical about (among other topics) a plague reopens in the immediate wake of a plague

*Pretty Woman, from 8 July: change of venue but presumably the same stylish clothes for this film-turned-stage fable

*The Book of Mormon, from 12 July: South Park-style satire more than ever should be balm for the soul

*Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, from 21 July: the play that feels like a musical is back where it began

*The Phantom of the Opera, from 21 July: a new look is promised for this recordbreaking long-runner (and, yes, I was at the 1986 opening night)

*Jersey Boys, from 28 July: Four Seasons and what looks to be nine theatrical lives for the unstoppable Frankie Valli juggernaut

*Back to the Future, from 20 August: Roger Bart makes his West End debut

*The Woman in Black, from 7 Sept: the shrieks continue into a new decade

*Matilda the Musical, from 16 Sept: why wait for the film when the show exists in all its glory

*& Juliet, from 24 Sept: Shakespeare given a top-40 spin

*Only Fools and Horses, from 1 Oct: reopening in time to mark 40 years of the vaunted TV sitcom that gave the stage show life

THE FRESH

*Cruise, from 18 May: Jack Holden's self-penned solo play can be seen live having been available during April as a very lively livestream

*Amelie the Musical, from 20 May: this Broadway flop is getting a renewed berth in London following an acclaimed run Off West End

*RE:EMERGE, from 22 May, a season of new plays produced by Sonia Friedman and featuring an enticing array of stars including Gemma Arterton, Gabrielle Brooks, and The Crown's own Princess Diana, Emma Corrin

*Cinderella, from 25 June, Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest in which the protean Emerald Fennell, the musical's newly Oscar-lauded book writer, diversifies her talent yet again

*Frozen the Musical, from 27 August, whereby Drury Lane will be thawed to the stage savvy of Disney

PLUS seasons aborning at such diverse addresses as the National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe, Hampstead Theatre, Bridge, Soho, and the Kiln, while the likes of the Donmar, Menier Chocolate Factory and Almeida, amongst many others, are sure to weigh in soon

THE FORGOTTEN (but not by us!)

*Sunday in the Park with George: it looks like the glorious Jake Gyllenhaal-Annaleigh Ashford revival of Stephen Sondheim's soul-searing musical, co-written with James Lapine, won't make it to the West End during 2021, but surely 2022 beckons for this bounteous take on the art of making art?

*4000 Miles: Amy Herzog's Pulitzer-nominated play, a success Off Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater, sold out its planned London premiere last year at the Old Vic on the back of the British stage debut of Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet, who was due to star alongside a living theatrical legend in Dame Eileen Atkins. Word has it that the venture is very much active and could still well land at the historic venue in the latter half of 2022, which only makes next year loom that much brighter.


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